Statistically, only about six percent of Canadian students attend private schools. One would therefore expect that about six percent of Canada’s leaders in any particular area of expertise would claim to have been educated in a private school setting. However, the actual results are dramatically higher. Figures vary, of course, but at least one study reveals that more than thirty percent1 of Canada’s economic elite cite a private school educational background. That’s five times (500%) higher than one would expect. It would be statistically significant if that figure was only 25% higher.
Economics are important, but does the same kind of performance translate to other measurements of success? Data is harder to acquire since the measurement of success is not as clear, but if one were to take a look at who the people are at the top of any particular segment of Canadian society, whether it be legal, medical, social, musical, artistic, commercial, political, humanitarian, or a host of other fields, you will find a disproportionate number of leaders in these segments were educated in private high schools.
How can that be? Surely the children attending private high schools aren’t five times smarter than those in public schools. In fact, anyone with the desire to send their children to a private school and the finances to afford it can find a private school that will educate their child. Keep in mind that when we refer to private schools here we are not talking about only the most elite boarding schools, we’re talking about all private schools in Canada. Therefore we have to assume that the children themselves are not the reason for the success, but rather that there must be factors specific to the private schools that do not exist in the public school system. Here are some of those factors.
- Networking: By their nature, private schools tend to be smaller and more intimate (smaller class sizes) than their public counterparts. This smaller size tends to give students at a private school a better opportunity to get to know a broader base of the students at the school, rather than be forced into a small clique in a larger environment. When you know your schoolmates better it is much easier to reach out to them when it comes time to find a good job or to meet people who have influence in any particular situation. It’s a testament to the age-old saying that “It’s not about what you know but who you know that matters.” Even being able to list the right people as references on a resume can have a huge impact on one’s success.
- Culture of Cooperation: Say what you want about public high schools, my experience has not permitted me to see many (I have witnessed a couple) where there was a spirit of cooperation among the students. In most cases, the dog-eat-dog mentality prevails there. My experience of private college schools, on the other hand, has been almost the exact opposite. Most of the private high schools where I’ve worked and visited have been places that were defined by a spirit of cooperation, even when that spirit has demonstrated an elitist edge to it. Since the private school almost always has core principles that are shared among the parents who send their children to that school, a spirit of cooperation occurs naturally and needs only a small amount of encouragement to flourish. When one grows up in an environment where your peers are cheering for you rather than trying to hold you back it only stands to reason that such an individual would expect and enjoy success in anything he sets his mind to do.
- Support Systems: When you rub shoulders with people who are successful, you are much more likely to become successful yourself. Think about this for a moment. Does anyone send their child to a private high school at significant financial cost that isn’t serious about seeing their child get the best possible advantages in life? At a private school, everyone has their children at that school for the same reasons. They all want to see their children succeed. Therefore, whether it’s the parents themselves, the school leadership, or the teaching staff, everyone involved in that school setting expects the others to contribute to the mutual support of those students. The support systems that result from such desires are a huge factor in the overall success of each child enrolled.
It’s really a shame that only about six percent of the Canadian student population get to experience the advantages afforded by the private schools of this nation. If that figure were closer to say fifty percent, imagine the quality of the systems and programs that our society would enjoy. Of course, your child will only have such advantages as a private high school alumnus if you are willing to pay the price to enroll your child in a local private school.
1 Actual figure quoted was 34% by John Porter from The Vertical Mosaic